Psychostrategist Sester was heading back to Earth when he received word from his fellow strategists out in Sector Ten.
Lambrin reported, "It appears that Kameron Reve is finally moving his forces towards the battle in quadrant five. An alliance has formed between him and Borel."
"Unfortunately we had nothing to do with it."
"What happened to convince him?" asked Sester. Even though this was good news, it was not welcome news that this was another thing which was happening beyond their control.
"That is uncertain at this point. We only know that something has moved him to take action. Will you still continue onto Earth?"
"Yes, the Federation President must be told," Sester replied. And there is still something else I must do.
Of all of the current psychostrategists, Sester was the one who was able to cast events the farthest into the future and the past. At times, he seemed to be able to draw lines through the immeasurable patterns of infinity. Apart from the aliens who appeared to be invading human space again, Sester believed that he was the only one who knew what was really going on. Or rather he had made a highly educated guess with all the data available to him; which was a good description of what psychostrategists did.
ORAC had now located all of the components which it required to synthesize the antidote serum. However it was having some difficulties formulating a plan to rescue Avon. There were certain things which had to occur in order for there to be a successful rescue of both the analyst and the crew.
Although ORAC knew how to generate the antidote now, it could not yet tell the crew. In its experience, humans were illogical creatures. If it had told them about the virus and antidote now, it would also have to tell them about Avon. It was sure that if it did that, the crew would attempt to rescue the analyst before the time was ready; and end up putting Avon in even a worse position than he was now or get him killed. ORAC decided to come up with a plan first; then it would inform the crew.
"Must we always fight?" asked Argus.
"Why are you tired of it?" asked Reya.
"I would like a little variety once in a while," he replied.
"Then all you need to do is agree with me," replied Reya.
There was an instant look of rebellion on his face.
She added, "Once in awhile."
She could see that he was considering this new idea.
"I think I can manage that. Once in a while," he told her finally. There was a faint grin on his face.
They were still in the infirmary; both were starting to get very restless. Although neither of them were one hundred percent, they were much better health-wise and couldn't wait to be released by the Healer.
Garett entered the infirmary and crossed over to where both of them were still chained to their respective beds. He appeared puzzled.
"Why are you both still here?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" asked Reya. "You still haven't released us yet." She pulled on the chain connecting her hand to the railing.
"Oh. I'm sorry. I left instructions that you were supposed to be released last night." He was studying them both curiously. They were not arguing when he entered the room. It was the first time he had seen that.
Argus had a displeased look on his face. "You mean we spent a whole day here when we could have been doing something more productive?"
"I'm afraid so. But I think you've both scared off my infirmary personnel. That's probably why they didn't tell you."
"I guess it was partially our fault. We shouldn't have given them such a hard time," said Argus.
"Speak for yourself," said Reya. "I'm not the one who knocked two of them out."
"Are you saying that this is all my fault?" he asked her. "I wouldn't have had to do that the second time if you hadn't tried to have me drugged. And whatever happened to agreeing with each other once in awhile?"
"You promised to agree with me. I never promised to agree with you."
Argus opened his mouth to respond and then stopped. There was nothing he could say against such logic. He chuckled. "You're right. I'm the only one who agreed. Alright, it was all my fault."
"No. You're right, we are both responsible," she replied. Now that he had conceded, she could too.
Argus opened his mouth to say something and then closed it again. He was confused; he doubted if he would ever understand her.
Avon was sharing a breakfast with Servalan at Residence One. They were both sitting on the couches at the far end of her bedroom. The analyst always enjoyed the meal here.
He had never been one to be concerned with such pedestrian things as the taste of food; but having been forced to eat the unappetizing gruel which substituted for food at the Federation Special Detention Centre, anything which tasted different was something to be valued.
Avon took another sip of the excellent coffee; appreciating its strong aroma, savouring the taste and enjoying the slightly bitter aftertaste.
Servalan always allowed him to stay until morning now whenever she sent for him. And she always fed him before returning him to work at the Detention Centre.
Although she was still enjoyed controlling and tormenting him at times, Servalan's attitude towards him had changed. She treated him with more care now; sometimes even asking him what he wanted instead of just forcing her will on him.
Avon wondered how much of it was real and how much an illusion still.
"Why is it I never know what you are thinking, Avon?" asked Servalan. She had finished her own breakfast had been watching him eat; she always loved watching him.
Avon started. Someone else had asked him that once; along time ago.
"Be thankful you do not know."
"Am I really that terrible Avon?"
"You are a devious, lying, amoral, treacherous snake with a façade of humanity. Is that what you want to hear?"
For a brief moment he thought he saw something in her eyes which indicated hurt but it disappeared so quickly he thought he must have imagined it.
You never will forgive me will you? Thought Servalan with regret. Especially since I will never allow you to be free.
She laughed. "You have such a way with words my dearest Avon."
Avon smiled wryly. In this world, both of them were equally viewed with open suspicion and mistrust.
After breakfast, she put the manacles back on his wrists then she pulled him to her and kissed him one final time before calling for the guards. Her embrace was gentle.
"Until next time," she said before the guards took him away.
As the guards led him back out through the hidden exit in her office, Avon thought, It is that façade of humanity which makes things complicated.
When psychostrategist Sester arrived back on Earth, he immediately went to see Servalan at her private office in Residence One.
"You are back early," said Servalan. She normally read all reports from Sector Ten herself and was well informed about everything which was going on. But there had been one thing which had been omitted from the reports.
"Yes, Madame President. There was something urgent I needed to discuss with you," said Sester.
Servalan instantly became alert. "What is wrong?"
"You have expressed many times about your unease regarding how quiet things were in the former Star One Sector."
"Yes?" Servalan asked. She had a horrible premonition about what he was about to say.
"I'm afraid you may be right; but not quite in the way you expected."
Servalan wanted to tell him to spit out it but the psychostrategist seemed to like to pause for dramatic effect.
"For quite some time now, the psychostrategy team in Sector Ten have been tracking an unknown influence acting on the conflict in the Athol Territories. Whoever it was kept their activities very well hidden. The only thing we saw were the outward effects," said Sester.
He could see from the reaction on Servalan's face that she was about to ask why she was not informed about this earlier. Before she asked the obvious question, he continued, "We did not inform you because the connection was tenuous. We had no proof. We still don't."
"You have no proof. But you are certain?"
"Yes. As a psychostrategist, I am certain. I believe that they are the ones who have been impeding Federation efforts in the conflict we started. We had intended Ellis to become established as Overlord in the Territories, under our guidance of course. But he has become much more powerful than we have helped him to be. I believe that this is because the aliens have been helping him."
"So if he wins, it will be the aliens in control of that Sector. Not the Federation?"
"Yes." This is good, thought Sester. You seem to understand the implications immediately. But how far are you willing to go?
"Have the aliens been able to penetrate the anti-matter mine field?" Servalan asked.
"No. I do not think that is where the danger is coming from."
Servalan looked confused. "I do not understand. Are they coming from somewhere else?"
"No. They came from the same place but the direction of their attack is different," explained Sester.
Servalan still looked confused. "Explain."
"You remember that after the battle, all of our forces were scattered throughout several sectors. Many of our people, including yourself, ended up stranded on various worlds after their ships were destroyed."
"You are saying that the same thing happened with the aliens."
"Yes. While the Federation has been trying to rebuild its empire and restore its forces, the aliens left stranded here have been trying to do the same. It appears that their goal is still the same. They mean to either destroy humanity or at least take us over. And they are doing it covertly now."
"The ones at Star One were able to camouflage themselves as humans."
"Yes, that is what makes them extremely dangerous. We not only do not know where they have hidden themselves; but on the surface, we cannot tell who they are. And it appears that in Sector Ten, they have become strong enough not only to affect the outcome of the conflict there but most likely they have acquired enough resources to add to it."
"And we have allowed them free reign."
"Yes. Unfortunately. We have been so focused on reestablishing the Federation that we have completely missed what they were doing. It may be that some of the problems we have experienced over the past few years may have been instigated or influenced by these hidden aliens."
"This is very disturbing. But I assume you did not come back just to tell me that. You already have a strategy to deal with the problem."
It was also disturbing to Sester that Servalan was proving to know him very well.
"Yes. The Federation is still far from being the power we once were. Our rebuild efforts are still many years from completion. And with the interference from the aliens hidden among us, it may take even longer."
"I know that already."
"We will need help."
"Yes, but from where."
"There is one group which also works hidden among us."
"You mean the rebels who are trying to destroy the Federation?"
"Why would they help us? I would not be surprised if they were not helping the aliens already."
"Servalan, you know they would not. Many of them came out to fight with us during the alien invasion. They know what the aliens are after as well as we do. That is why you believed Blake's group when they contacted you about the danger at Star One. We may have different ideologies on how humanity is to be ruled but we all have a vested interested in preserving humanity against the aliens."
"Supposing that is true, how do we go about convincing them? You said that you do not have proof. If I were them, I would suspect a trap."
"We need an intermediary. Someone whom they will trust; even if they do not trust us."
"And who is this wonderful intermediary?"
"The Justice and its crew is currently out in Sector Ten."
"What?" Servalan asked in shock.
"Yes. We only found that out recently."
"How do we know that they are not the ones causing the problems there?"
"It is true that they have been causing problems but that is independent of the alien threat."
"How do we know that they are not aliens themselves?"
"We captured their leader Argus and had him tortured. We know he is not an alien."
"It appears there are many things you have not told me."
"Unfortunately we did not know who he was when he was captured. And we did not know yet that the Justice was in the system."
"You think that you can convince him to work with us and stop working against us?"
"It will be difficult. I have been observing Argus's group and studying their abilities. I believe they will be invaluable in helping us against the aliens. But there is one thing you must do."
Sester paused and looked at Servalan, trying to judge carefully what he was about to say.
Servalan did not like the tone in Sester's voice. It meant he was about to say something he was afraid that she would not like.
"You need to give them back Avon."
"No!" Servalan had not expected this.
"Even with their abilities, they are not enough. They need Avon. And it will be our guarantee that we are serious."
"Find another way." Servalan's voice was cold and firm.
Sester sighed. He had been afraid of this. The reports from the Special Detention Centre lately had noted that Avon had been spending a lot of time at Residence One. The psychostrategist's plan to encourage Servalan's attachment to Avon had worked too well. She could not be expected to be rational with respect to Avon.
"Yes, Madame President."